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Dental Problems

All animals and people have dental problems, but humans avoid most of them by brushing their teeth on a daily basis. Our pets do not, and if you’re like most owners, they don’t get much help from us either. Cats and dogs can be trained to have their teeth brushed, and some will grow to like it. We see a lot of animals with dental disease. It is about the most common problem pets deal with through the years. Here are some of the signs of dental disease and how to treat it.

Dealing with Dental Issues

Portrait of gray striped cat.First, a thorough exam is needed. Not all animals want us looking in their mouths, but at least we can get a general idea of what is going on in there. If we need a closer look, we can lightly sedate them if necessary. Sometimes we can tell from the outside that there may be a big problem going on. Animals that have a swollen spot on one side of their cheek may be harboring a bad tooth or a tumor. Even swollen eyes will sometimes indicate a bad tooth.

Signs that point to trouble:

• Drooling

• Not eating

• Pawing at mouth

• Growling while eating

• Really bad breath

• Swollen face and/or eyes

• Chewing on one side only

• Face sensitivity

Gingivitis is a common term for red gums and dental disease. The best treatment is to have your pet’s teeth cleaned. Some animals, like people, need to have this done more frequently than others.

In cats, there is a disease called stomatitis. Stomatitis can be so severe that the most effective treatment is to pull all the teeth and put the cat on a routine of antibiotics, Interferon, and pain medicine. These cats can also get blocked salivary glands and become swollen under their chins. Even with all of this, we still see some that are so bad they go to a dental specialist. These cats drool excessively, paw at their mouths, and are so uncomfortable that they will not eat. These symptoms can also apply to severe periodontal disease and animals with kidney disease.

Collie dog on white background.Kidney disease can lead to ulcers in the mouth that are extremely painful. The kidneys act as filtering agents for the body. When the kidneys start to shut down, the toxins that they normally would filter out start to back up into the blood stream. This causes problems everywhere, but in the mouth they appear as ulcers. Bloodwork is definitely needed to find out how severe the kidney disease is and how to treat it.

Another cause of sores in the mouth could be tumorsSquamous cell carcinomas are the most common in the mouth. They are more common in white animals, but do not confuse these with epuli, which are for the most part, benign growths in the mouth, especially in boxers. A biopsy is the best way to tell which kind of growth it is.

Other things that can cause these symptoms are bugs (some of our pets think these might taste good but they really do not), unpleasant drug taste, and overdosing or wrong flea medicine.


Treatment for these symptoms begin with a thorough dental exam, followed by a dental cleaning, and different medicines from analgesics to antibiotics to help the animal feel better. Dental specialists can do root canals, crowns, braces, and tooth replacements if necessary.

If you have any questions about dental disease or need to schedule an exam for your pet, give us a call! Prevention is much less expensive than treatment for serious dental problems.